Canned Heat est un groupe de blues-rock américain formé en 1965. Le groupe, toujours en activité de nos jours, a connu ses plus grands succès à la fin des années 1960, participant activement à la vague du blues revival.
Canned Heat is a blues-rock/boogie band that formed in Los Angeles in 1965. The importance of the group lies not only with their blues-based music, but with their efforts to reintroduce and revive the careers of some of the great old bluesmen, and their improvisational abilities.
Canned Heat est le fruit de la rencontre à Los Angeles de deux grands amateurs de blues : le chanteur Bob Hite et le guitariste Alan Wilson. Hite The Bear (en référence à sa forte corpulence) et Wilson The Owl, Blind Owl (pour sa mauvaise vue) sont rejoints par le guitariste Henry Vestine (surnommé Sunflower, et ancien membre des Mothers of Invention de Frank Zappa), le bassiste Larry Taylor et le batteur Frank Cook.
Le groupe tire son nom d’un vieux blues de Tommy Johnson intitulé Canned Heat Blues, écrit en 1928. Le Canned Heat était une boîte de conserve qui contenait de l’alcool quasiment pur. En pleine prohibition, les plus démunis en tiraient une boisson hautement toxique.
Alternant entre blues, rock, boogie, reprenant de vieux standards du blues, le groupe enregistre en 1967 son premier album, simplement intitulé Canned Heat. La sortie de cet album, peu avant le passage remarqué du groupe au festival de Monterey, n’a qu’un succès mitigé. En revanche, le deuxième album (pour lequel Cook est remplacé à la batterie par Fito de la Parra), titré Boogie With Canned Heat, connaît un vrai succès. On y retrouve le classique On The Road Again, devenu l’un des morceaux les plus fameux de l’histoire du rock. Alors que le chanteur habituel du groupe est Bob Hite, c’est Alan Wilson qui chante sur ce titre. Sa voix haute, fragile et légèrement étouffée, le rend immédiatement identifiable.
En 1969, Canned Heat poursuit sur sa lancée avec le double album Living The Blues. Il contient notamment le remarquable Going Up The Country (à nouveau chanté par Alan Wilson), immortalisé dans le film officiel du festival de Woodstock, où le groupe se produit durant l’été (la version live de Going Up The Country figure sur la bande originale du film). Ce morceau a aussi été utilisé dans la publicité « Renault Espace », qui met en scène un personnage de bande dessinée s’évadant vers la montagne.
En 1970, Canned Heat sort son quatrième album, intitulé Future Blues puis enregistre dans la foulée Hooker’n’Heat, avec le revenant John Lee Hooker. C’est le dernier album du groupe dans sa forme d’origine. Le 3 septembre 1970, Alan Wilson est retrouvé mort dans la maison de Bob Hite d’une overdose de somnifères. On parlera de suicide, sans que les circonstances du décès ne soient jamais véritablement élucidées.
Canned Heat poursuit néanmoins son existence, en multipliant les tournées. En 1981, le groupe connaît un nouveau drame avec la disparition de son leader Bob Hite. Obèse, il décède d’un malaise cardiaque juste après un concert.
Un livre intitulé « Living the blues, Canned Heat : une saga entre musique, drogue, sexe, mort et survie » par Fito de la Parra et T.W. et Marlane McGarry, parait en français en 2007 chez BeachComPress.
Juillet 1967 rollin’ and tumblin’ – Liberty US
Janvier 1968 boogie with Canned Heat – Liberty US
Octobre 1968 livin’ the blues – Liberty US
Juillet 1969 hallelujah – Liberty US
Août 1970 future blues – Liberty US
Janvier 1971 Hooker ‘n Heat (avec John Lee Hooker) – Liberty US
Juin 1971 ’70 concert: recorded live in Europe – Liberty US
Décembre 1971 historical figures and ancient heads – United Artists US
Mars 1973 the new age – United Artists US
1973 Memphis Heat (avec Memphis Slim) – Barclay France
1974 one more river to cross – Atlantic US
1978 human condition – Takoma US
1994 uncanned! the best of – EMI US (compilation 2CD 1967-1973)
The group was led by Alan « Blind Owl » Wilson (guitar, harmonica, vocals) and Bob Hite (« The Bear ») (vocals, harmonica). The original line up included Keith Sawyer on drums, Mike Perlowin on lead guitar and Stuart Brotman on bass. Mike Perlowin was soon replaced by Kenny Edwards who in turn was followed by Henry Vestine (a.k.a Sunflower, an ex-member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention). Larry Taylor (« The Mole ») (best known up until then as the Monkees session bassist), was their studio bassist, (joining full time through 1970), along with drummer Frank Cook for their first album. Guitarist Harvey Mandel toured with the band extensively through the late 1960’s. Canned Heat took their name from Tommy Johnson’s 1928 « Canned Heat Blues », a song about an alcoholic who has desperately turned to drinking Sterno, which is generically called canned heat.
Canned Heat was started as a jug band in November 1965, in Northridge, California by a group of « musicologists » who loved blues music. Soon the band evolved into an electrified blues/rock band with the uncanny ability to interpret and create a modern version of the blues. While they never reached the popular acclaim of some of the other bands of the psychedelic era, none the less, they were a talented group of musicians who created some of the most unusual music of that or any rock and roll era. Musical trends come and go. Canned Heat’s « boogie music » has been at the forefront of popularizing blues music, as exemplified by such hits as « On The Road Again », « Goin’ Up The Country », « Let’s Work Together », « Amphetamine Annie » and « Refried Boogie. » Wilson helped rediscover Son House and accompanied him on his 1965 comeback album. The group also strong-armed their record company (Liberty Records) into getting a contract for overlooked Texas bluesman Albert Collins.
Their debut album Canned Heat was released not long after their appearance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Fito De La Parra (born Adolfo De La Parra, 8 February 1946, in Mexico City) replaced Frank Cook as drummer for their second album, Boogie with Canned Heat (1968). It was more successful, spawning the hit single « On the Road Again ». In 1969 they released the inconsistent double album, Livin’ the Blues but it did bring them their biggest hit, « Goin’ Up the Country », a song built around Henry « Ragtime Texas » Thomas’ reed fife riff from the late 1920s recording « Bull Doze Blues » (often mis-cited as ‘Bulldozer Blues’). Guitarist Harvey Mandel replaced Vestine for part of 1969–70. The band appeared at the August 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Festival with their performance appearing in both the album and film release.
The next year was the musical high point for the original lineup. They brought in John Lee Hooker to record the double album, Hooker ‘N’ Heat, in May of 1970. This was to be the first album of Hooker’s career to make the charts, topping out at number 73 in February of 1971. Unfortunately, Wilson died of a drug overdose in an apparent suicide, in September 1970 prior to the album’s release. Autopsy results were inconclusive and as he left no suicide note, controversy remains over this matter.
The group had one additional hit with a cover of Wilbert Harrison’s « Let’s Work Together ».
In the 1970s, the band would be joined by lead singer Bob Hite’s younger brother Richard, who sang, played bass, and helped with arrangements. During this period, they recorded « One More River to Cross » on Atlantic Records, featuring the Memphis Horns.
The last studio recording with Bob Hite was 1978’s Human Condition, with Hite singing the title track, an old Alan Wilson tune that had been recorded solo by Wilson but hadn’t been released. The 1981 album Kings of The Boogie also featured Hite on a couple of tracks, with Richard Kellogg and Mike Halby doing vocals on the rest of the album. A decade later came 1987’s Hooker ‘N Heat, (Live at the Fox Venice Theater) , (recorded and originally released in 1978, with Hite), with John Lee Hooker guesting again. Both recordings feature the guitar and vocals of Chicago’s Mark Skyer, the live performance augmented by Larry Taylor on bass, (one of many short reunions), Ronnie Barron on piano, and group vocals by the Chambers Brothers.
Bob Hite died in April, 1981 (Vestine passed away in 1997, followed by Richard Hite in 2001). Bob was replaced by Richard Kellogg as lead vocalist. By 1989 the trajectories of Hooker and Canned Heat crossed once again. This time they guested on his album, The Healer, which was a big hit. De La Parra leads the current band and Larry Taylor returned in 1994 after leaving in 1970. Taylor continues to be « first chair » bass with many top acts, including Kim Wilson and Tom Waits, « returning » numerous times to do special events and recordings with Canned Heat.
Ex-Heat guitarist Harvey Mandel was one of the guitarists considered to replace the departed Mick Taylor in the Rolling Stones, with his efforts appearing on the 1976 Stones album Black and Blue. His extensive soloing is featured on « Hot Stuff ». Mandel continued to record, self releasing albums, and in 2004, oddly enough, recorded a song written by MP3.com co-founder Rod Underhill, a musician and lawyer who served as the founding music director for the original MP3.com. Mandel is currently recording and touring with the « Chicago Blues Reunion« , along with Nick Gravenites, Barry Goldberg, Tracy Nelson, Sam Lay, and Corky Siegel.
Canned Heat continues today with long time members Fito de la Parra and Larry « the Mole » Taylor leading the way. Vocal duties have been handled over the years by Walter Trout, James Thornberry and Robert Lucas. Recently, Fito de la Parra has written a book, « Living the Blues, » which chronicles the history of Canned Heat. In July 2007, a biography of Alan Wilson, « Blind Owl Blues », was published by music historian Rebecca Davis Winters.
« Going up the Country » was used in a second season episode of The Wonder Years and in 2006 in the Enjoi Skateboards video Bag Of Suck, in Clark Hasslers part. The song was a perfect choice to complement his unique skating.
1967 – Canned Heat
1968 – Boogie with Canned Heat
1968 – Living the Blues
1968 – Hallelujah
1969 – Canned Heat Cookbook
1970 – Future Blues
1970 – Live in Europe
1970 – Hooker ‘N’ Heat
1971 – Live at Topanga Corral (1966-67)
1972 – Historical Figures and Ancient Heads
1972 – The Best of Canned Heat, 1990 CD
1973 – The New Age
1973 – Memphis Heat, w/ Memphis Slim
1978 – Human Condition
1978 – Hooker ‘n’ Heat, (Live at the Fox Venice Theatre) w/ John Lee Hooker
1981 – Kings of The Boogie, a.k.a. Dog House Blues
1988 – Reheated
1989 – Let’s Work Together: The Best of Canned Heat
1994 – Uncanned! The Best of Canned Heat
1995 – « King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Canned Heat In Concert », Rec.Live Sept.7, 1979, Parr Meadows, Long Island , Only Live Canned Heat Recording In Existence To Feature Mike « Hollywood Fats » Mann On lead Guitar, King Biscuit Flower Hour
1996 – Best of Hooker ‘n’ Heat (selected cuts from the 1970 double album)
1999 – Boogie 2000
1999 – Blues Band
2000 – The Boogie House Tapes
2001 – Vietnam: Songs From A Divided House (Disc 1)
2003 – Friends in the Can
2004 – The Boogie House Tapes, Volume 2
An electro-rock cover version of the song On the Road Again was released by the French band Rockets on their 1978 album, On the Road Again. It was also covered by Katie Melua on her 2005 album Piece by Piece. A similar version has been released in a 2006 single by the Belgian trio Telex.
San Francisco band Deerhoof perform a faithful rendition of « Goin’ Up The Country » on their 2006 Internet-only EP Covers and Live Songs.
Pete Townshend performed On The Road Again and Going Up The Country in his 1998 concerts, particularly at Woodstock (August 15) and in the House Of Blues, Chicago (August 16). The latter concert was partially released as A Benefit For Maryville Academy CD and features On The Road Again.